APHN Fall Pilgrimage features Steel Magnolias film sites

By Holly Penta

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) hosted its 65th annual Steel Magnolia Tour of Homes Oct. 11-13. The tour included both a Town Tour that focused on prominent historic homes that served as sets in the 1989 film “Steel Magnolias” and a Cane River Country Tour, which allowed visitors to get a look into some of Natchitoches’ historic plantations.

The Town Tour featured the Steel Magnolia House, the Lemee House, the Ragan House and Styles Beauty Shop, Maison Louisiane, and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The Cane River Country Tour featured the St. Augustine Church, Cherokee Plantation, Oakland Plantation, and Melrose Plantation.

Along with the tours, the APHN hosted a Speaker Series to give insights into the filming of Steel Magnolias. This included talks from local extras and a demo on how to make an armadillo cake. Artifacts from Northwestern State’s research center from the filming of Steel Magnolias were placed in the Lemee House, which served as Ouiser’s (played by Shirley MacLaine) house in the movie.

Of course, the real star of the Tour of Homes was the iconic Steel Magnolia House, where the majority of the filming was done. This is where M’Lynn (Sally Field) and Shelby (Julia Roberts) lived. Here, tourists got to see where Fields and Roberts filmed some of the movie’s most iconic scenes, including Shelby’s wedding reception where the armadillo cake was served. Along with the movie set, visitors also got the chance to admire the artwork in the house, including some of Clementine Hunter’s original work.

In all of the homes the tour guides, many dressed in historical outfits, spoke about the history of the families who used to live there, the history of the furniture and decorations of the house, and where the homes showed up in the movie. The visitors also got the chance to ask questions and speak to Natchitoches residents who knew the Harling family, which Steel Magnolias was based on. The residents spoke about the filming and told personal anecdotes about the real-life Harling family.